+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

wife, who wished him to take care of his
money and not get drunk. This is very well,
but I like best to imagine him running away,
as he did in the evil days when wife and Mr.
Addisou were dead, and the boxes at Button's
were filled with unknown faces; when
creditors became more importunate, and friends
unkind. Then all forgotten were the malignity
of critic Dennis, and the fierce wit of
Swift, and the insolence of Wagstaffe, and the
gibes of Pope and the Scribblers' Club, the
squabbles of the players, and the strife of
Whig and Tory. Far away down in
Herefordshire, famous for its orchards, and finally
in Langunnor in the heart of Wales, he
found a hiding-place, and was forgotten till
he died. Am I the fool of fancy when I
picture the jovial town-man settling down in
that sweet pastoral Welsh village, where they
show the wall of his garden yet, and
wondering why he had not run away long ago
to such a life of peace, and leisure, and
content. Of a different kind was the
flight of his enemy, Swift, when in the
very crisis of his political life, he suddenly
vanished, none, save a trusty friend, knew
whither, and in the antechambers of Windsor
and St. James's, was found no more dispensing
patronage to friends, and counsel to statesmen
famous now in English history. When
parties were split asunder by a dread of the
pope, and a hatred of a German successor;
when friends were persisting in a dangerous
game; when the queen was dying, and the
battle of tory and whig waging fiercer than
ever, the haughty Swift saw no course wiser
or better than to run away. So he went
down to a little village in Berkshire; and
there, while men were bewildered by his flight,
took shelter in a quiet parsonage, where only
faint echoes of the great storm of politics
could reach him; while, with his host, a
melancholy, thoughtful man, he dined at
twelve or one, supped on bread and butter
and a glass of ale, and went to bed at ten.
Nor did Swift ever lose his taste for the
pleasure of running away. Many anecdotes
are told of his sudden disappearances; of his
love for escaping from the great world even
into questionable company; carrying his
passion, so far as sometimes to make long
tours on foot, sleeping by the way in low
country lodging houses, where, it may be
supposed that he picked up his keen Teniers-
like enjoyment of the humorous side of low
life. Far more distinct, however, in my
memory is the running away of Jean Jacques
Rousseau. Who would not remember it?
It is a scene in which we have ourselves
acted at some time far off", but still remembered
well. My copy of Jean Jacques, well-
thumbed when I had it, and wanting some
pages at the end, has long ago gone the way
of all lent books; but I think I could tell
pretty accurately the story of the flight
from Geneva, which was the beginning of
that self-torturing sophist's marvellous career.

I have never forgotten how the watch-
engraver to whom his friends, little dreaming
of the fame that was to greet him on the way
of life, had bound him in his youth, tyrannised
over him, struck him for reading by night,
overtasked him, reviled him, stinted him of
food; and how Jean Jacques bore it all, and
stealthily found means to devour the whole
library of the Genevan bookseller. Neither
have I forgotten those stolen country rambles
in which he knew the sweet taste of
vagabondage, and for the first time dreamed of
the blessed resource of running away; my
heart was always with him, when, hurrying
back at dusk one day, he heard the trumpet
blow the signal for the raising of the
drawbridge, which would shut him out of the
city for the night, and bring him to sure
disgrace if he remained. At a few paces
from the guard, as he came up eager and
breathless, behold the drawbridge rose,
and the destiny of Jean Jacques was
fulfilled. He lingered there till daylight, with
a natural fondness for the old city, and
then departed never to return. What
might become of him, or whither he would
go, he knew not. Whether the authorities
would track him out and bring him to
disgrace, and the punishment of the cruel laws
of that Calvinistic community, Jean Jacques
and his readers know not, as he hurried
away penniless; till he finds himself in Turin,
and is safe. Who would now know the name
of Jean Jacques had he never run away.

More impressive and pathetic, because
vaguer, and leaving more to be imagined, is
the flight of the poet Collins, whose name I
omitted to mention in my list of fugitives.
Not much is known of Collins beyond what
is given in the brief but affecting narrative of
his friend Johnson. We learn that he was a
hatter's son, and a boy on the foundation at
Winchester College; that he out-distanced
boys of far happier circumstances, carrying
away the prizea fellowship at Oxford
over all. He was a curious scholar, learned
in the classic and modern languages, and
deeply versed in all poetic and legendary lore.
We know that, having fought the battle of
life up to a point, he fell into a weak, irresolute
habit, only explained in the sequel,
when he sank into a settled madness. But
what is to me far more interesting, is the fact
that when he felt this madness stealing upon
him, when he found that the ease and
competence of a fortune which he had acquired
were as nothing against this great calamity,
of whose approach none knew save him, he
took a resolution to departto hurry away
out of England, anywhere; as if the terrors
of that disease could be escaped by flight;
and so disappeared from all who knew him,
and somewhere in French or German cities
was seen, from time to time, hastening ever,
though with no settled destinationa silent,
solitary, haunted man.

More cheerful to think upon as having a